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Chris Samuels/Deseret News, File

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox calls GOP opponent 'hypocritical' in porn Twitter exchange

By Lisa Riley Roche  |  Posted Apr 20th, 2016 @ 10:25pm


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SALT LAKE CITY β€” GOP candidate for governor Jonathan Johnson, chairman of Overstock.com, is "hypocritical" for condemning pornography on Twitter while selling it on the online shopping site, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said Wednesday.

Johnson's spokeswoman, Sasha Clark, called the statement by Cox "a last-minute smear campaign to guarantee his next government paycheck" and said "Christian material and books on overcoming addiction" are also sold on the site.

Later, a program guide for a Cox family communications company, the Fairview-based CentraCom, showing listings for on-demand porn surfaced, but Cox said the offerings were removed earlier this year after a long legal battle.

CentraCom vice president of marketing Nate Palmer said the company is no longer under contract to carry the programming, part of an acquisition of a cable TV property a decade ago. He said the company does not produce the program guide.

Clark said the company still makes money from what she called pornographic material on Cinemax and HBO.

"I think, at the end of the day, this mud-slinging isn't helping anyone," she said.

Cox stepped down as a CentraCom vice president when he was appointed lieutenant governor in 2013 by Gov. Gary Herbert. Herbert is competing against Johnson in Saturday's Republican State Convention for the party's nomination.

Because Herbert chose to also gather voter signatures under a controversial new nominating process, he can either win the nomination outright at the convention with enough delegate support or proceed to a primary election.

The clash between the campaigns came the day after the governor held a bill signing ceremony for a resolution passed earlier this year by the Legislature declaring pornography a public health crisis.

In a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Johnson applauded lawmakers "for their foresight" and said, "families will be stronger (and) societies safer when citizens realize pornography's devastating efforts (and) avoid it like the disease it is."

Johnson also criticized Larry Flynt, the founder and chairman of Hustler Magazine, for saying he was sending copies of the publication to Utah lawmakers, calling it "revolting (and) disgraceful" and "a heinous act."

The lieutenant governor responded on Twitter by saying, "You forgot to applaud Gov. Herbert. It's OK. I got this," followed by clapping hands emojis and, "P.S. Really wish Overstock didn't sell porn."

Cox then retweeted one of Johnson's posts about Flynt and asked Johnson, "Will you commit that your company will stop selling Mr. Flynt's porn?"

Overstock.com sells adults-only Hustler lingerie, as well as racy magazines and publications from Hustler rival Penthouse.

Cox told the Deseret News he "just thought it was a little hypocritical" that Johnson "makes money" from such material.

"I'm not an expert on pornography, but I do believe that adult magazines and videos, and other things that are for sale at his company, I think most people in Utah would consider pornography," he said.

"My point is, if you really do believe it's a public health crisis, let's stop the dissemination of it," Cox said, noting he had not discussed his concerns with the governor. "That's something he could do something about."

Johnson's campaign would not say whether Johnson would call for Overstock.com to stop selling such materials.

"We're not going to get into that. There is a difference," his campaign manager, Dave Hansen, said. "Overstock does not send the magazines to people who do not request it. That's a corporate decision. Everyone knows Jonathan's position."

Contributing: Andrew Adams



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